Uber Eats SA diversifies to become digital mall

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 08 Sept 2022

Uber Eats South Africa has garnered over 300 000 users, as the food delivery app ramps up its strategy to transform into a digital mall.

Uber Eats, which launched locally in 2016, says it has witnessed 20% year-on-year growth since inception, now with over 10 000 couriers listed on the platform.

During Uber’s product and safety update event this week, the food delivery app announced it is adding new verticals to its category offerings, to now include florists such as Dipalesa, beauty product merchants like Love Kinks, women’s apparel stores, stationery and more.

During a round table discussion at the event, Charles Mhango, head of operations for Uber Eats SSA, explained the existing categories have been well-received by users. This prompted the strategy to provide an ecosystem of third-party offerings that allow consumers to purchase groceries, pharmaceuticals, takeaways, alcohol and electronics on one platform.

“One of the growth factors that we observed in the past 18 months is that COVID-19 really helped out with our growth – as you can imagine, during the pandemic a lot of people were initially not able to walk into the mall during the hard lockdown, so we saw a lot of food online ordering,” noted Mhango.

“We have since signed several partnerships, including those that we have with Game, BP Garage, Exclusive Books and others, as we move towards unconventional partnerships with businesses that you wouldn't really associate with food.

“As we expand beyond the food vertical, we also want to offer a smart delivery service – ensuring our couriers deliver goods within 30 minutes – as part of our approach to offering a seamless shopping experience.”

Uber Eats has expanded the number of restaurant partners from 1 000 since launch, to over 7 500 merchants across 33 cities in South Africa.

Last month, the company signed a partnership deal with popular disk jockey DJ Zinhle, to make her ERA brand accessible on the Uber Eats platform for those who want to purchase accessories, watches, jewellery, eyewear and more. 

Cikida Gcali-Mabusela, head of new verticals at Uber Eats SSA, told the media that the company is also customising its mobile app to ensure it is robust enough to handle shopping items across verticals.

"Adding new verticals is a concept that came up during the pandemic. We have since seen a lot of growth in our grocery category, our convenience category, and our liquor and retail categories.

“These categories, both in South Africa and Kenya, have contributed a great deal to our growth, and in some cases we achieved triple-digit growth – which is exactly what we have been gunning for. So we have to ensure the infrastructure, which initially catered for food ordering, is adequate for scalability,” Gcali-Mabusela pointed out.

Last year, delivery couriers held protests across the country, voicing concerns about lack of safety and what they call “low wages”.

Discussing wage-related issues, Mhango explained: “We are committed to providing better earning opportunities for our couriers. Four weeks ago, we gave them a 10% increase on earnings and we are in the middle of considering another increase.”

Last month, the company collaborated with delivery bike media firm MotionAds, to provide its couriers with an opportunity to earn additional revenue through bike top-box advertising.